Tuesday, August 11, 2009

BEAVER CLEAVER

“YOU CAN’T ALWAYS GET WHAT YOU WANT…….”
“But, you get what you need,” so went the Rolling Stones' song. It’s so simple, so true, yet so bogus. It has been my observation for half a century (now there’s a dismal thought!) that often, living creatures do not get what they need. The results can be catastrophically damaging. Take this beaver -it’s obviously dead. It was just beginning to cross the road when a car hit it. I have wanted to take beaver photos for a long time. When my scout called about a dead one on Route 209, I didn’t hesitate. Ideally, I’d prefer live beaver shots, but as a wildlife photographer and writer, I take what I need; I don’t always get what I want. In its death, I can still appreciate the fur, the hand-like feet and geometric scaling of the tail. I’ve never actually seen a beaver in the wild. All the beavers in my life have been dead and many of them in far worse shape than this one.
My father had a dog sled team when I was growing up. He never won any races, nor was he able to successfully breed his Siberian huskies. We had dozens of puppies, but by breed standards, none of them was adequate to sell. My father complained bitterly that he could not get a good dog out of the bunch. We did have a fancy Canary that sang prolifically. My father had traded it for a dog, somewhat appeasing my mother. Though they were “no good,” the dogs were nonetheless, expensive to feed. At the time, there were sixteen dogs and four of us children. Feeding us was business enough for my mother without the dogs. In his travels, my father was continually finagling food for his dogs. A couple of summers, he negotiated with a local summer camp for the dining hall slops. Three times a day, a truck showed up loaded with trash barrels full of macaroni, scrambled eggs, half-eaten hot dogs and other food based garbage. After the campers finished their meals, they slid the tray contents into the cans; it was clean food. The can contents were dumped on the ground for the dogs. After the dogs finished, my sisters and I rounded up the flatware that had been accidentally discarded with the food. It was the only thing the dogs did not eat. We proudly presented it to our mother, who washed and put it away in the kitchen drawer. We quickly collected a couple of sets, too. One winter, my father met a trapper in a bar. The trapper complained that the town wouldn’t let him discard his beaver carcasses at the dump any longer. He had accumulated a mountain of skinned beavers in his yard. They were frozen solid, but spring was coming. He’d have to rent a backhoe to dig a big hole into which he would bury them. “No way I can make any kind a money on them pelts if I got to eat that kind a cost, god damned town,” he groused. He wasn’t getting what he needed at all, other than another guy to complain with. But, my father thought he might be going to get what he needed: dog food. Some arrangement was made for the pile of free, frozen meat, though my father forgot to mention that to us. One Sunday morning, while my parents slept off hangovers, a dump truck arrived. Watching from my bedroom window, I saw a man climb into the back of the truck. With a pitchfork, he began stabbing and flinging out what I was sure were babies - human babies! Little, naked pink bodies were flying through the air and hitting the ground with thuds. Screaming, I ran to my parents’ room and pounded their door, “AAAAaaaaaagh! Get up! Get up! A man’s throwing babies into the yard!” It took eternity for my father to stumble out of the room, smelling like sweat and booze. He looked out of the window and vomited. I think our days of dogs concluded soon after that. I do remember that my sisters and I collected the teeth left behind, the only part the dogs did not eat. My father drilled holes in them and made us each beaver teeth necklaces. My parents were not the June and Ward Cleaver I wanted. But, they may have at least been what I needed; they didn’t just kill me.



5 comments:

  1. Robin, you are a hoot and a half....great, great story!!


    BTW, that is a Stones, song, not a Beatles song. But who cares....

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  2. OOhhh! No damaged brain cells here! I fixed my pop music faux pas, thanks! RRR

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  3. Thank you. Good that this TWWWWWadgedy is funny!RRR

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  4. I don't believe there is an adequate comment for the beaver entry. You never cease to amaze me with your tales of childhood. I didn't know your father kept sled dogs and the beaver babies......what a story. It is right out of The Bean's of Egypt ME. Caroline Chute has nothing on you. Well, she did grow up in Cape Elizabeth after all.

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